Liverpool Parks
HistoryMap & PhotosEmail your own images
Postcard of St John's Gardens, early 1900s

Postcard of St John’s Gardens, early 1900s

Postcard of the Police Band in St John's Gardens,  1935

Postcard of the Police Band in St John’s Gardens, 1935

Military tents occupying the gardens during the Liverpool Police Strike 12th August 1919

Military tents occupying the gardens during the Liverpool Police Strike 12th August 1919

Historical background
Naturally a plateau of open heath, the development of the area began in the form of windmills, lime kilns and markets. The names of several of the adjacent streets such as Lime Street and Old Haymarket derived from these early uses.

During the mid 18th Century Liverpool began its first phase of rapid urban expansion. In 1767 the area of the garden was enclosed as a general burial ground with a small mortuary Chapel. It was in 1775 that the first stones were laid for St John’s Church which was designed in the gothic style by the architect Thomas Litoller. Construction of the Church was completed in 1784. In 1854 work began on St George’s Hall, designed in Neo-classical style by Harvey Lonsdale Elmes, winner of the architectural competition for the building.

St John’s Church had been located hard against the West elevation of St George’s Hall and was a factor in the more simple design form of this side of the Hall, with its lack of a portico. Soon after the work commenced on St George’s Hall, developments began which led to the demolition of St John’s Church and later to the laying out of St John’s Garden. In 1865 the churchyard was closed for burials, and then in 1880 Liverpool was established as a separate diocese from Chester and a Cathedral was planned to the West of St George’s Hall on the site of St John’s Church. It was decided that the Anglican Cathedral should be located at St James’ Mount to dominate the Hope Street skyline, avoiding a clash in styles between the two major buildings and providing a great civic space more fully revealing the Western elevation of St George’s Hall. In 1897 under the Liverpool Churches Act St John’s was closed. The Garden is claimed to have been designed initially by the sculptor, George Frampton, as a setting for existing and proposed pieces of public sculpture reflecting the City’s new found economic, political and cultural status.

Frampton reputedly submitted a detailed plaster model to the Corporation Surveyor, Thomas Shelmerdine. Shelmerdine was supportive of Frampton’s proposals and adopted the layout in his neo-baroque design. Frampton’s masterplan was thought to have been for an Italian garden, and although not completely carried out, it contributed towards providing Liverpool with a magnificent sculpture garden which is recognised as one of the major groups of outdoor public monuments of the early twentieth century.

The statues in the Garden, which was opened on 20th June 1904, were produced by some of the most famous names in Victorian sculpture such as Frampton, Sir Thomas Brock and Pomeroy. The monuments with the Garden and the gate piers and terrace wall are listed reflecting their national historic and architectural importance.

The park today
One of the city’s few city centre green spaces, the Garden is the site of the most prestigious collection of listed statuary in the city. These monuments and memorials present a fascinating indication of the city’s heritage and development and provide an appealing attraction amid the lawns, bedding and specimen plantings of the Garden.

The Garden lies at the heart of the arts and culture quarter in the city centre and an attractive component of Liverpool’s World Heritage Site where the open space contributes to a sense of civic pride amplified by the auspicious architectural backdrop of St George’s Hall and the city’s Museum, Central Library and Walker Art Gallery.